By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The sentencing hearing for Martin Shkreli, the former drug company executive who made headlines by jacking up the price of a lifesaving drug before he was found guilty of defrauding investors, began on Friday with a plea for leniency from his lawyer.
A contrite Shkreli, 34, appeared before U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. His lawyers had asked the judge to impose a sentence of 12 to 18 months, while prosecutors have sought at least 15 years.
"I've got my begging voice on," Shkreli's lawyer Benjamin Brafman told the judge. He said Shkreli suffered from depression and an anxiety disorder and was a "somewhat broken" person, whom the government wanted to "throw away."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said the 15 year sentence was justified in part because Shkreli's crimes were not an "isolated lapse in judgment," but a pattern of conduct including separate frauds for his two hedge funds and for his drug company Retrophin Inc.
Shkreli "seems to not understand exactly why he is here, the magnitude of the crimes he has committed, and he has no respect whatsoever for the law," Kasulis said.
The Brooklyn-born entrepreneur became known as the "Pharma Bro" in September 2015 after founding Turing Pharmaceuticals, buying the anti-parasitic drug Daraprim and raising its price by 5,000 percent to $750 per pill. Shkreli was indicted for the unrelated securities fraud charges in December 2015.
At the hearing, Shkreli choked up as he said he had learned from his mistakes.
A jury in August found Shkreli guilty of defrauding investors in two hedge funds he ran, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare, by sending them fake account statements and concealing huge losses. He was also convicted of scheming to prop up the stock price of Retrophin, the drug company he founded in 2011.
Brafman, noting that he was old enough to be Shkreli's father, said his client had not always been easy to work with.
"There are times when I want to hug him and hold him and comfort him and there are times when I want to punch him in the face," Brafman said.
Kasulis said Brafman was trying to portray Shkreli as "a child."
"Mr. Shkreli is about to turn 35 years old," she said " He is a man who needs to take responsibility for his actions."
Shkreli has been in jail since September, when Matsumoto revoked his bail after he offered his social media followers $5,000 if they could bring him a hair from former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
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